Pastor of Luther’s Church: Synodal Path Is the ‘Wrong Path’

The Christian world, Rev. Alexander Garth said, “needs the Catholic identity, because it would be a great loss for Christendom if the Catholic color of faith lost its intensity.”

Lutheran Rev. Alexander Garth of St. Mary’s church in Wittenberg. (Photo: Screenshot)

VATICAN CITY — The Protestant Pastor of the German church where Martin Luther preached and is known as the “mother church of the Reformation” has warned that the German Church’s Synodal Path is “the wrong path” that is “forcing the Protestantization of the Catholic Church.”  

In a letter sent over Easter to the German monthly Vatican Magazin, Lutheran Rev. Alexander Garth of St. Mary’s church in Wittenberg said he was observing “with concern” both the Synodal Path and Maria 2.0, a movement with similar goals. 

“The democratizing of a national church always means that a populist, minimal Christianity becomes the ecclesial standard leading to the entire church being banalized and the gospel diluted,” he wrote. 

Such “reformers” in the Catholic Church, Rev. Garth believes, should become Protestant as in the Protestant churches “you will find everything you are fighting for: woman priests, a synodal constitution, married pastors, feminism.” 

But he warned that “the spiritual and physical state of the Protestant Church is much worse, and the repercussions of secularization still more devastating, than in the Catholic Church.”

The Catholic Church in Germany is over halfway through its highly controversial two-year Synodal Path that is expected to end in February 2022. 

Its proponents, who include most of Germany’s bishops, see it as a necessary road to reforming the Church after the sexual abuse crisis. But the path’s critics say it threatens to undermine the Church’s hierarchical structure, authority and moral teaching, leading to possible schism. 

Maria 2.0, a German women’s lay movement founded in 2019 in response to the sexual abuse crisis, aims to root out what its members view as sexism in the Church and, like aspects of the Synodal Path, advocates for women’s ordination and an end to priestly celibacy. Its two founders formally left the Catholic Church last month. 

Rev. Garth, who describes himself in the letter “as a Protestant with a Catholic heart and pastor in the pulpit of Martin Luther,” said he considered the Protestantization of the Catholic Church “to be a great misfortune, for this world needs the Catholic profile of Catholic spirituality, with loyalty to the Pope, Marian devotion, and the example of the saints of the Church.”

A photo of the letter sent over Easter written by Rev. Alexander Garth.

The Christian world, he added, “needs the Catholic identity, because it would be a great loss for Christendom if the Catholic color of faith lost its intensity.”

He also recalled the precedent of a Protestant synodal path during the Third Reich which, he said, resulted in the Nazi majority in those synods “contaminating, perverting and spiritually paralyzing the entire church with the Nazi demon.” 

The Protestant church in the Third Reich, Rev. Garth said, was a story of “betraying the Faith” with the “luminous exception” of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran pastor executed in 1945 for his role in the plot to kill Adolf Hitler. 

Wittenberg is closely tied with Luther, being home to All Saints Church on whose door the Augustinian monk nailed his famous 95 theses that signaled the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. He also taught theology at the town’s university. 

The church of St. Mary in Wittenberg, also known as “Stadtkirche,” is famous not only for its pulpit from where Luther and fellow reformer, Johannes Bugenhagen, preached for many years in the 16th century, but also for being the first church in the world to hold Protestant liturgies, and the first to have them in the German language rather than Latin. 

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